For three days in March 2023, 330 of the best collegiate wrestlers from across the country competed in the 92nd NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As part of our nearly decade-long partnership with the NCAA, four members of the video team at Trilix spent six days capturing and editing footage from the tournament to celebrate and document the peak of these college wrestlers’ careers.
By the time they got to Tulsa, most of the work had already been done. According to James Drescher, senior producer/cinematographer at Trilix, 80% of the work lies in preproduction and only 20% is execution. Trilix follows the sport all season long to know which stories the NCAA may want to highlight. By the time the tournament rolls around, our A-team has planned for several months and have hammered out the most minute details down to who they’ll talk to, which of the athlete’s relatives and mentors they’ll interview, what questions they’ll ask and even what music will be in the final videos.
Part of the preparation for the wrestling championships every year includes designing and constructing a custom background, which is then packed up and brought to the tournament to be set up in the interview space. This year, Trilix video producer/editor Nick Mongar was inspired by the vertical light slats in the interior of the star destroyers from “Star Wars.” To accomplish a similar effect, Nick and James spent two days taping colored gel in the gaps of the backdrop so colored light would glow when shining through the gel. Imagery of the podium and the lines on the mat where the wrestlers meet were also incorporated to tie the design together.
Just as important as preproduction is the on-site editing done by Trilix video producer/editor Sydney Dhabalt. Sydney tackles this work as the rest of the team films the tournament. In a matter of hours, she organizes hours and hours of video. The editing process takes the film from fascinating pieces of footage to stories that evoke emotion and highlight the wrestlers chosen to be featured.
By editing on-site, the NCAA is able to share the produced videos while the tournament is still taking place. Often, a wrestler has their last match of the day in the evening, and a video is released the next morning with clips of the match. This speed is only possible because of how prepared and organized the video team is as they work together to get Sydney the footage she needs to finish the next video scheduled to be released.
For the second year, the NCAA published a “My Title” video, which is released before the championship to get wrestling fans excited and features previous national title winners. These pieces allow fans to relive the thrill of past matches and gives the champion a space to celebrate their accomplishments and reflect on their growth.
For Kyven Gadson, who won the 2015 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in the 197-pound weight class during his senior season at Iowa State, the interview was a chance to reminisce on the love for wrestling he shared with his father, Willie, a former Iowa State Cyclone NCAA Division I collegiate All-American wrestler who passed away from stage four lung cancer in 2013. The video masterfully combines this year’s interview with Kyven and footage of the championship match against Ohio State freshman Kyle Snyder in 2015 to tell the moving story of the Gadson legacy.
Parents are a very vital piece of the sport, especially wrestling moms who potentially have driven these kids to tournaments since they’re three or four years old.James Drescher, cinematographer at Trilix
For the past six years as part of the coverage of the NCAA Wrestling Championships, the NCAA has produced letter videos, where wrestlers read aloud motivational letters they wrote to themselves or letters a loved one wrote to them. The letters allow the wrestlers to dictate their own stories and are often a place for them to reflect on the path that brought them to the tournament and on the people who helped them get there.
This year, we featured a letter written to Cornell University’s Yianni Diakomihalis by his mother Gina, who cheered him on from the stands as he became the fifth wrestler in NCAA history to win four national titles. Trilix was excited to highlight a wrestling mom for the first time.
“Parents are a very vital piece of the sport, especially wrestling moms who potentially have driven these kids to tournaments since they’re three or four years old,” James noted.
It’s difficult not to feel touched by the love and pride Gina exhibits for her son through the letter. Stories like this one that capture the heart and dedication always embodied in the NCAA Wrestling Championships are some of the most rewarding to bring to life.